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On Friday, September 24, nearly 300 individuals gathered for the 20th Annual Day of Caring.  The event kicked-off with an early morning breakfast where United Way staff energized the crowd of volunteers with games, door prizes and speakers.  On behalf of United Way’s partner agencies, Christina Lawson, Executive Director of the Florence Area Literacy Council, addressed the volunteers stating, “For every sore muscle, back ache and bead of sweat, there is a person smiling; a person that has one less thing to worry about because you chose to help.”  Following the breakfast, the volunteers, comprised of individuals from 29 local companies and organizations, headed to their respective volunteer projects, with many completing multiple projects.  By the end of the day, 41 projects from painting to pressure-washing to building picnic tables were completed.  “We are so thankful for the support of our local companies and their employees,” said EJ Newby, President of United Way of Florence County.  “Each year we want to get bigger and do more, and that would be impossible without this incredible community support.”

This event marked the 20th anniversary of the Day of Caring.  In 1992, a committee led by Jill Heiden, current Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Special Projects at Florence-Darlington Tech and member of United Way’s Board of Directors, organized Florence’s first Day of Caring on a Wednesday in September.  On that day, 22 companies with 200 volunteers completed 18 projects across Florence County.  Said Jill of the event, “It was a great day.  We learned of other United Ways out-of-state doing similar events and brought it back.  We thought, we can do this; it’s a great idea.”  Since that time, the Day of Caring has become a staple for local non-profits who look forward to it every year as an opportunity to get much needed projects completed. 

The Day of Caring serves as the official kick-off for United Way’s annual campaign where funds are raised to support local non-profits.  The 2012-2013 Together We Grow campaign, led by Andy Patel of HillSouth, aims to raise $1,230,000 over the next few months.  Individuals interested in supporting United Way’s Together We Grow campaign can do so by sending donations to United Way’s offices at 1621 W. Palmetto Street, Florence, SC 29501.  Wendy Bird, VP of Campaigns for United Way of Florence County has organized the Day of Caring and Annual Campaign for the past 12 years.  “It can be tiring, but then Day of Caring comes along and it’s so inspiring.  I look forward to it every year,” said Wendy. 

There are still several projects submitted by United Way partner agencies available.  Descriptions of these projects can be found on  Completing projects with your family, church, company or local organization is a great way to build camaraderie and give back to the community.  Anyone interested in forming a group and completing a project can contact Wendy Bird, VP of Campaigns at United Way of Florence County, at 662-2407.

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